What Girard missed in Plato

One of the pleasures of being a member in good standing of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion is that every so often I am sent a pile of books by Michigan State University Press by Girardian authors. Yesterday’s surprise included two new books by Rene Girard himself: When These Things Begin: Conversations with Michel Treguer and The One by Whom Scandal Comes. What a treat!

However, one of the chapters of the Conversations book has the title “Mimetic Desire: Shakespeare rather than Plato.” (You can picture my grimace if you’d like.) There are really only a few terse mentions of Plato in the chapter from which I will quote. Note that the book is an extended interview and “MT” is Michel Treguer and “RG” is Rene Girard: (more…)

The artistry of thinking

Sometimes our endeavors have the character of a purgatorial climb. We grope and grope toward some undefined end — head down, grunting and grabbing. It is good to pause and wonder toward what end we are working. In my own case, I can still only speculate. My latest hypothesis is that I am working toward a theory of thinking.

I recently attended a TEDx conference that my wife organized. One of the speakers was the artist Philip Morsberger, who gave a talk called “Some Thoughts on the Making of Art.” I thought the speech (and the event) was fantastic. Here is a quote from the speech: (more…)

“Mimesis and the Mediation of Meaning” paper proposal

I am at work on a paper that I hope to present at the 2014 meeting of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, which meets in Freising, Germany in July. This will look like a departure from my Plato project, but it is really not. I am trying to develop a succinct (Girardian) theory of mimetic mediation in order to communicate more precisely in my book the communal nature of philosophy and the mediation of meaning that goes on there. Essentially, the theory will touch on the origin of both language and human culture — I didn’t want to tackle anything too big! Anyway, here is the abstract I submitted to the organizers:

Proposed title: Mimesis and the Mediation of Meaning

Abstract: My paper will attempt to exploit a parallel between Rene Girard’s analysis of triangular desire and Charles S. Peirce’s semiotic investigations into the triadic basis of significance. I will show how this linkage of mimesis to semiotics provides useful resources for the theorist of Girardian anthropology. The parallel is both striking and important for developing a properly three-dimensional account of human meaning-making. I will argue that mimesis is the primal adhesive that links sign, object and interpretant into a locus of significance. Desire and meaning-making are discovered to be two versions of the same phenomenon. The heart of my paper will be an analysis and generalization of bodily posture, emphasizing its strong role in the mimetic mediation of meaning. I will outline how Girard himself emphasized the importance of gestures, particularly the acquisitive and accusatory. I will extend the generalized notion of posture to include analogously what I am calling “neural postures.” The bodily, prelinguistic roots of meaning will be applied to thinking about the origins of mimetic culture. The paper will turn to the meaning-making present in the sacrificial phenomenon as a way to make sense of Girard’s contention that the sacrificial victim is a “transcendental signifier.” Finally, I will connect this with Jean-Luc Marion’s analysis of the idol/icon distinction and how these can be distinguished in terms of mimetically-mediated postures of significance.

René Girard 1985

An very good interview with Rene Girard from 1985. The actual interview is in English although the introductions are in Dutch. Thanks to the blog Mimetic Margins for making this available.

Mimetic Margins

In 1985, René Girard received his first honorary doctorate at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. More followed at various universities throughout the world. In December 2006, he was installed as a member immortel of the Académie Française, the highest honor a French intellectual can achieve in his home country.

A month after René Girard received his first honorary doctorate an interview with him appeared for Dutch television (IKON). The interview is in English with Dutch subtitles.


There is also footage from the ceremony for the honorary doctorate at VU Amsterdam.


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Republic Slow Reading project, final day

Yesterday, we “ended” our Slow Reading of Republic, Book I — although some of you noted/complained that it wasn’t really that slow at all! Look, take as much time on it as you like. You can go back and still comment on any of the texts from the last five days; I will be sure to answer you. Or perhaps, this reading has inspired you to charge boldly on and to read the Republic as a whole. Great! Good idea!

For those of you encountering the dialogue afresh, which may include some of you who have “read” the dialogue before but are seeing it with entirely new eyes, you may want to skip this post. When I teach the Republic, I often make my students read Book I again at the end, so that I can show them what was present there in embryo but couldn’t be noticed without the light of the later parts of the dialogue. What follows are a few insights available to those who have finished the whole dialogue. So beware, *spoilers follows*: (more…)

Republic Slow Reading project, day 5

This is the last of our “slow reads” of Book I of the Republic. Today, we are discussing 350d to the end of Book I, a continuation of the conversation/argument between Socrates and Thrasymachus.

Tomorrow, I will post some observations about Book I that require the perspective of having read the rest of the dialogue. I didn’t want to bring any of this material into the discussion since I thought (1) it would disrupt the close, attentive reading that was our goal, and (2) I didn’t want to “spoil” the rest of the Republic for those who are coming at it for the first time.


1. In 350d Socrates claims that Thrasymachus and he “agreed” that justice is virtue and wisdom and that (more…)

Republic Slow Reading project, day 4

Today, we continue discussing the spirited and testy exchange between Socrates and Thrasymachus (342a – 350d). If you haven’t looked at the previous days of slow reading, catch up and come back. Same rules apply as before. Be sure to read the comments, since that is where the conversation is.

By the way, if you a little behind and are still thinking about the Polemarchus dialogue that we discussed on Day 2 for instance, then go ahead and comment there on that. I will be sure to respond. You can slow your own reading down as slow as you want thereby!

An remember, we can only become virtuous by attempting to be virtuous, so dare to be be courageous and (more…)

Republic Slow Reading project, day 3

Today, we begin discussing the spirited and testy exchange between Socrates and Thrasymachus (336b – 342e). If you haven’t looked at the previous days of slow reading, catch up and come back. Same rules apply as before. Be sure to read the comments, since that is where the conversation is.

Be courageous and post a comment — participate in the conversation!


1. Thrasymachus was a notorious sophist from Chalcedon, located right on the Bosphorus straits in what is (more…)